Bebaak Collective Speak Out Against Triple Talaq and UCC

In a statement, the organisation stressed the necessity of ensuring gender justice within Islamic personal law, without the issue being dragged into the Uniform Civil Code debate.

In 1983, Shehnaaz Sheikh took up triple talaq at the Supreme Court, based on the discrimination she had suffered. Following Sheikh, Shah Bano Begum, in 1985 also sought judicial redressal at the Supreme Court, demanding alimony after divorce – a claim that was resisted as un-Islamic. Both cases were appeals for Muslim women to be treated with more constitutional equality.

This year, Shayara Bano’s case at the Supreme Court against triple talaq, has all the makings of a turning point in Muslim personal law in India. If a decisive judgement is made in favour of gender justice it will make Muslim women in India more equal, legislatively, when compared to women in other communities, and of course in their own interpersonal spaces.

The issue of triple talaq, however, is quickly being appropriated and warped into a debate about the importance of having a uniform civil code, with the law commission circulating questionnaires about the same. The central government entered the meleé by submitting an affidavit against triple talaq to the Supreme Court, a move that was appreciated till the question of a uniform civil code followed. Opposition by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has been fierce, with the organisation claiming that removing triple talaq would be un-Islamic and consequently submitting counter-affidavits for triple talaq to court. They have also begun a signature campaign, asking Muslim women to sign in favour of triple talaq.

Women’s organisations, such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan have criticised the AIMPLB for perpetuating dated, inaccurate and patriarchal interpretations of the Islamic texts, claiming that triple talaq is not mentioned in the Quran.

Bebaak Collective issued a statement yesterday in solidarity with the several women’s rights groups that have been arguing vehemently against triple talaq in one sitting as a gross violation of women’s rights.

They have pointed out that the Muslim community in India is not a homogenous entity speaking with one voice – there are a multiplicity of voices within the community – and therefore the search for an “authentic” Muslim voice is futile, and can be detrimental to the community like it had been during the Shah Bano case.

The statement alleges that the right-wing government is trying to appropriate the cause under the pretension of  “rescuing” Muslim women from their medieval laws. “We do not want our living realities or struggles to be subsumed by any force in the name of rescuing, which works in absolute continuum with the despotic paternalism of majoritarian power.” the report said.

It also emphasises the necessity of ensuring affirmative action for the Muslim community, considering the vulnerability of the community as is attested by several reports over the decades. Furthermore, it asserts a commitment to gender justice and insists that the debate needs to push boundaries outside of triple talaq.

The full text of the statement is reproduced below.

No rerun of history of Shah Bano and Shehnaaz Sheikh: Open letter to support Shayara Bano

We are writing this open letter to our fellow women’s groups, human rights groups and concerned individuals to bring into attention three primary concerns that have emerged as a corollary to the ongoing series of events around the issue of triple talaq.  As we all know ‘triple talaq’ has always been a contentious question in the women’s movement since the times of Shehnaaz Sheikh, who in 1983 filed a petition in the apex court challenging triple talaq and continues to be so with the petition filed by Shayara Bano in 2016.
The issue of Personal Laws has always been a volatile debate considering the ever impending question that whether women should be treated as right bearing individual citizen or member of a particular community. In recent times, right after reopening of the triple talaq debate, the Law Commission of India  took out a questionnaire on uniform civil code to begin ‘a healthy conversation about the viability of uniform civil code’ in the name of women’s rights. However, it has been more divisive for all the progressive voices within the community.
Meanwhile, All India Muslim Personal Law Board has opened a signature campaign all over the states taking support from women of the community to reiterate that any change in the Sharia should come from within and that members of the community should resist the banning of triple talaq. Signature campaigns which are being conducted in almost every Muslim dominated locality raises questions about the methodology through which one reaches out to the community, and also how by being able to mobilize opinion one kind of voice in the community becomes an authentic representation. In the midst of these tumultuous times, we want to earmark certain aspects:
  • The way Muslim community is diverse within itself there are equally varied voices within the community on the issue of Personal Laws. Therefore, no singular opinion must be treated as the sole voice of the community.  Such presumption about the ‘authentic’ Muslim voice shall be fatal for the community as it was during Shah Bano’s time.
  • Law Commission’s questionnaire which has come now is a strategic move which will have far reaching ripples. Muslim community is a socially vulnerable community as attested by multiple Reports including that of Rajinder Sachar Commission of 2005 and they require various affirmative actions to better their conditions of living. However, it is also a fact that ‘rescuing’ the ‘vulnerable’ Muslim women seems to form an ideological base for the majoritarian right wing government and its allies. As women’s groups we fight this appropriation of our causes to the State’s ends.
  • We and our fellow women’s groups have been working in different states while staying within the community. We have been shared with that in the ongoing debates there is also a simmering rise of insecurity among women’s groups who fear to be targeted for being against the community or religion. Recently, a group of women’s activists were targeted in Govandi, in Mumbai while campaigning against triple talaq in the community. They had altercations with the community ‘leaders’. These stray incidents of quashing down of women’s voices in the community will have far reaching effects for the Muslim women’s leadership itself who has emerged after much struggle.
This time, we want our cumulative strength to imagine gender justice for Muslim women whose contours are not defined by normative religious practices and also, where plurality of everyday will find expression. We do not want our living realities or struggles to be subsumed by any force in the name of rescuing, which works in absolute continuum with the despotic paternalism of majoritarian power. We also want to open the lid of gender justice which will push the conversations beyond the questions of triple talaq. We want to gather support and strength in this time to create a new history and not a rerun of that which is past in 1986.
On behalf of
Bebaak Collective (Voices of the Fearless)
Contact: bebaakcollective@gmail.com/ 9870162113
Endorsed by the following organisations and individuals:
1.       Forum against oppression of women, Mumbai
2.       Saheli, Delhi
3.       Jagori, Delhi
4.       Zubaan Publishers
Zehen, Mumbai
5.       Janvikas – Ahmedbad
6.       Parwaaj – Ahmedbad
1.                   Uma Chakrabati, Historian
2.                   Lata Singh, JNU
3.                   Mary E John, ADU
4.                   Nivedita Menon, JNU
5.                   Papori Bora, JNU
6.                   Kalpana Mehta, Manasi Swasthya Sansthan, Indore
7.                   Shabnam Hasmi
8.                   Anita Ghai
9.                   Shilpa Phadke, Tiss
1.                   Shewli Kumar, Tiss
2.                   Nandini Manjrekar, Tiss
3.                   Zeba Iman, Tiss
4.                   Madhu Mehra, PLD
5.                   Rajarshi Dasgupta, JNU faculty
6.                   Chayanika Shah, LABIA
7.                   Shals Mahajan, LABIA
8.                   Kalpana Kannabiran, lawyer
9.                   Teesta Setalvad, activist
10.               Soma Marik
11.               Aruna Burte
12.               Gabriele Dietrich
13.               Kamayani Bali Mahabal
14.               Geeta Seshu, Jounalist, Mumbai
15.               Arundhuti Dhuru, Humsafar, Lucknow
16.               Japleen Pasricha, Feminism in India
17.               Sana Contactor
18.               Lena Ganesh
19.               Priya Krishnamoorthy
20.               Nisha Biswas, Kolkata
21.               Sunidhi Naskar
22.               Dyuti Ailawadi
23.               Rohini Hensman
24.               Adv.Jaya Sagade, Pune
25.               Aswathy Raveendran, Mumbai
26.               Pyoli Swatija
27.               Madhvi Shivaprasad
28.               Riddhima Sharma, FemPositive
29.               Rahul Roy
30.               Anand Pawar – pune
31.               Snehja Rupwate
32.               Heba Ahmed
33.               Aravind Unni
34.               Amrita Howlader
35.               Vasant Damle
36.               Pushpendra Kumar
37.               Lalita Ramdas
38.               Vandana Khare
39.               Vaishali Gaikwad
40.               Shikha Pandey
41.               Rossi Dsouza
42.               Sidrah Patel
43.               Anshumala Singh
44.               Yam India
45.               Sakira Shahin
46.               Kaveri Dadhich
47.               Sachin Jain
48.               Moideen Mathari
49.               Amrita De
50.               Neetika Vishwanath
51.               Brototi Dutta
52.               Aiman J Khan
53.               Shabana Ansari
54.               Reena Khatoon
55.               Rajesh Umadevi Srinivas
56.               Vasanti Damle
57.               Shiva Sharma, AALI
58.               Yasho Salve
59.               Rukmini Sen
60.               Deepa Pawar
61.               Kabi S
62.               Kanta Singh
63.               Salma Bawazir
64.               Nischint Hora
65.               Nootan Malvi
66.               Satnam Kaur
67.               Dhruv Redkar
68.               Sandhya Srinivasan
69.               Sohini Soaib
70.               Avinash Kumar
71.               Ketki Ranade,Tiss
72.               Sangeeta Chatterjee,
73.               Sehba Imam
74.               Kalyani Menon
75.               Tarique Shafique